Retro Sci-Fi Weekend: ‘The Time Machine’ (1960)

Retro Sci-Fi Weekend: 'The Time Machine' (1960)

One of the all-time best science fiction movies, ‘The Time Machine‘ (1960), stars Rod Taylor in his first leading role with Yvette Mimieux in a – dare we say – timeless classic!

The Time Machine” “…based on the 1895 novel of the same name by H. G. Wells in which a man from Victorian England constructs a time-travelling machine which he uses to travel to the future,” as described by Wikipedia.

In 2008, “CULT MOVIE REVIEW: The Time Machine (1960),” provides additional insights into social commentary of film, and probably, most riveting and enduring aspects of film. An early scene shows close friends George (Taylor) and Philby (Alan Young) discussing George’s fascination with time.

The protagonist clearly states his dissatisfaction with his own era “…George and his friend Philby…share a philosophical discussion. ‘Why the pre-occupation with time?’ asks Philby sincerely. George’s answer is telling. He doesn’t much care for his own time, an epoch when science is called on only to invent new weapons, ones that can more efficiently ‘de-populate’ the Earth.

George travels into future with brief stops in 1917, early 1940s and then the 1960s, by this time, exposed to air raid sirens and “all clear” that become mind control triggers for dumbed down Eloi of the distant future.

A nuclear strike triggers a volcano in the sixties stop, forcing George to throttle into far future to finally escape lava encasing his machine.

The 2008 review shares its admiration for author’s keen viewpoint, “when Wells wrote the original novella, he was well-acquainted with Darwin’s work, and it’s fascinating…that Wells pondered not an evolution of the species, but rather the devolution of our kind: a pervasive moral, intellectual and physical degradation” – or was it access Wells may have had to esoteric knowledge?

The 2008 review shares insights into potent and enduring social commentary incorporated into plot:

Finally, George stops his machine in the far-flung world of 802,701 AD….Another brilliant touch…Specifically, the Morlock ‘call’ for the Eloi to gather at their city entrance is the same air horn or siren noise that for generations warned humans to seek underground shelter during times of attack. That particular sound was heard so frequently throughout human history that the Eloi response has become quite literally Pavlovian in nature. The horns sound, and the Eloi drop everything and mindlessly go to the Morlocks…their enemies….Although the movie doesn’t specify it, the novel makes clear that the fat, lazy Eloi are the descendants of the leisure class; the industrial Morlocks are ‘blue collar’ workers. In the movie, they’re also blue skinned, hairy monsters with glowing eyes.

So, Wells portrays a future where working class gets even by farming descendants of the rich – or leisure class? The 2008 review sounds a positive note in conclusion, although it’s more about human resiliency than a hopeful future:

Think about it: George, the time traveler of the 1960 version, goes to the future, and sees what we have done to ourselves as a species through our constant divisions (social and military). But he doesn’t give up. He doesn’t cower. Instead, he fights for the human race. Ultimately, he commits himself to the world of 802,701 and sets about the hard work of building a new culture, a new civilization. The message here, right beneath the surface: Yes we can. We might fail, we might even hover on the precipice of total destruction, but we can choose to involve ourselves; to fight. And we will succeed. Otherwise, all the future’s just a…bridge to nowhere.

Could it be Wells spelled out human nature as forever cyclical – a flowing course of social evolution and devolution, shaped mainly by need and circumstance? “The Time Machine” begins with part one of 11.

Leave a Reply